The Journey of 10,000 steps by Jenny Bloom

Jenny Bloom 11-10Jennifer L. Bloom, Ed.D. is a Clinical Professor and Director of the Master’s degree program in the Higher Education & Student Affairs Program housed in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policies at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Bloom also directs the Office of Appreciative Education at the University of South Carolina that sponsors the annual Appreciative Advising Summer Institute, an on-line Appreciative Advising course, the process for Certifying Appreciative Advisers, and other exciting initiatives related to Appreciative Advising and Appreciative Education.

Prior to her appointment at the University of South Carolina in August, 2007, she served as the Associate Dean for Student Affairs & the Medical Scholars Program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995.

Dr. Bloom served as the 2007-08 President of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).  She received the NACADA Outstanding Advising Administrator Award in 2005 and University of Illinois’ Campus Academic Professional Excellence Award in 2007. In 2008, she received the University of South Carolina’s Black Graduate Student Association’s Faculty Mentor Award as well as the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign’s Senior Class Special Tribute Award. In 2011, she was named the Faculty Partner of the Year by the Division of Student Affairs and Academic Support at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Bloom has co-authored four books, five book chapters, and twenty articles. The first book, Career Aspirations & Expeditions: Advancing Your Career in Higher Education Administration, was released in 2003 and co-authored by Nancy Archer-Martin. The second book, The Appreciative Advising Revolution, was released in September 2008 and is co-authored by Bryant Hutson and Ye He. In November 2011, the third book, Appreciative College Instruction: Becoming a Positive Force for Change in Student Success Courses, was published. Her co-authors were by Bryant Hutson, Ye He, and Claire Robinson. Her fourth book, Increasing Persistence: Research-based Strategies for College Student Success, co-authored with Wesley Habley and Steve Robbins, was released in July 2012. In addition, Dr. Bloom has delivered over 19 national webinars and 160 presentations on her work at institutions and conferences across the country

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The Journey of 10,000 Steps

I couldn’t use ignorance as an excuse. No, as a Physical Education major at Illinois State University, I was familiar with the well-document research about the benefits of exercise.  Yet for some reason, once I began pursuing my graduate degrees at the University of Illinois I basically abandoned exercise, except for playing golf occasionally during the summers.  I really felt like I had a perfect excuse for not exercising while I worked full-time as an Academic Advisor at the Institute of Aviation at the University of Illinois and completed my doctorate in Higher Education Administration – I simply had no time.  Yet after I completed my doctorate and “only” worked full-time at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, I still clung tightly to the “I don’t have time” excuse to explain my lack of physical activity.

By the time I turned 39 years old I realized that I was beginning to feel lethargic and not at my best more than I cared to admit.  However, when I was on vacation I went on walks and felt really good after doing so. It was a pedometer walking challenge sponsored by the University of Illinois that caused me to pick up one of the free pedometers available to campus employees and join the walk around campus led by the Chancellor.  Like most people, up until that point I had no idea how few steps I was taking every day. I would have sworn ahead of getting the pedometer that I walked 7,000 to 8,000 every day. The reality was that I was lucky to take 3,000 steps on a typical day. I began to write down how many steps I was taking on a daily basis and then set a modest goal to get at least 5,000 steps most days of the week.  Things became serious in December 2005, 8 months prior to my 40th birthday when my husband and I headed to Florida for a vacation over the Christmas break and I managed to walk at least 10,000 steps every day.  On the way home I vowed not to break the streak and committed to walking 10,000 steps every day during the 2006 calendar year.  I accomplished that goal and it is hard to describe how impactful that decision was in my life. I lost my sluggishness – I slept better, ate better, came up with more creative ideas, and had more energy.  And, maybe just as important, I learned that I was not a victim of my own calendar – that I could make time for me. By doing so I actually ended up being much more productive and efficient with my time.

In 2007, I moved to take a clinical faculty position at the University of South Carolina and simultaneously served as the 2007-2008 President of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).  I continued to walk 10,000 steps, but I did break my string of consecutive days of walking. From January 2007 to January 2012 I walked 10,000 daily steps on average about 6 days a week. Up until August 2009 walking was the way that I accomplished my 10,000 steps, but I decided at the end of the summer that I needed to more efficient with my time as the school year began.  So, I began to jog to get some of my steps.  I live in a residential airpark (http://whiteplainscommunity.blogspot.com/) and one lap around our airport/home development is 1.3 miles.  I was eventually able to build up my endurance and began running one lap and later 2.  My best friend, Catherine Paulson, is an endless source of inspiration for me – she is an Ironman Triathlete and she invited me and some other friends to Austin, Texas in January, 2010 to participate in the 3M Half-Marathon.  I knew I wasn’t ready to run a half-marathon, but I did commit to doing a relay with another friend from our college days.  I took on the first-half of the race and was still feeling pretty good when I reached the relay exchange area where I was supposed to drop off and let my partner complete the rest of the race. Since I was feeling better than I expected at the relay exchange point I decided to keep going and see how far I could actually run.  And, I surprised myself by actually running all the way to the finish line.  That was a huge confidence booster and I have continued to run most days since then, although my primary goal is to get in the 10,000 steps either by running or walking.

I returned to Austin on January 29, 2012 to run the 3M half-marathon again and successfully completed it. As a reward I gave myself the day off from walking 10,000 steps on January 30, 2012. But, beginning on January 31, 2012 I committed to getting those 10,000 steps in every day and so far my streak of consecutive days is intact.  During this time I have actually been averaging 14,000 steps per day. My streak will eventually be broken, but I know that I’ll get right back to it the following day because I just simply feel better when I get those steps in.

So, what advice do I have for other higher education colleagues that are considering becoming physically active?

  1. Figure out what type of exercise is most appealing, fun and easy for you to do.  I love walking/running because it gets me outdoors and I don’t have to drive to a gym to do it. In 2011 I did purchase a treadmill so that I didn’t have to walk in circles in my house to get in my steps on cold and/or rainy days.
  2. Create a concrete goal.  My goal eventually was to take at least 10,000 steps every day, but keep in mind that I worked my way up to that goal.
  3. Document your progress towards your goal. I threw away the cheap pedometer I received from Illinois and bought a better one (I love the Omron pedometer product line myself). Every day on a monthly calendar I download from about.com (http://walking.about.com/cs/measure/a/blhowtrack.htm) I track my total steps, aerobic steps, and aerobic step time.  I have done this religiously since December 2005 and even though my pedometer plugs into my computer and stores my information electronically, it is very gratifying to write down these numbers of the calendar each evening.
  4. Make exercise a priority. Over time, I have realized that the best way for me to get in my steps is to do so first thing in the morning. When I was waiting to get the steps in at night I found that I was way too good at making excuses. For the past few years the first thing I do in the morning is go outside and run/walk.  I just adjust my wake-up time depending on my first obligation of the morning. This means that most mornings during the school year I am up at 5 a.m. I can’t think of a better way to start my day!
  5. Invite your friends to join you. My Mom, Ada Bloom, caught the 10,000 step fever soon after I began my walking journey.  On the weekends we would often walk together which gave us some precious Mother-Daughter time and gave us something to compare notes on.  In fact, we walked our first half-marathon together in Michigan and it was an experience that neither of us will ever forget.
  6. Keep at it. When I first started walking I would feel tired and it was very tempting to quit. That is why I eventually made the commitment to walk 10,000 steps every day in 2006 because I knew that I needed to make walking a habit.  Fight through the fatigue you might feel the first few weeks you start your exercise regimen because I can assure you that you will have more energy than ever once you make it through the initial challenge of getting started. The good news is that the exercise becomes a self-reinforcing behavior because you will feel so much better.

I hope by sharing my story that it inspires some of you to take that first step.  The first step is often the most difficult, but I know that you can do it! Best wishes as you embark upon your exercise journey. Please contact me at bloomjl@mailbox.sc.edu if you have any questions or comments!

Jenny and Mom arrive on track 2

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